Israel-born trumpeter Avishai Cohen is one of the most consistently rewarding bandleaders on the ECM roster. His sound has only grown more personal, haunting, and lyrical—and his accompanists are consistently sympathetic. For his latest offering, he’s going deeper than ever. The poem he recites at its conclusion says it all: “Departure,” by Israeli poet Zelda Schneurson Mishkovsky, translated from Hebrew by himself and stage director Sharon Mohar.
What a startling meditation on leaving everything behind and accepting the finality of death. “Part from all work and art, from rituals, from rain and from all that is pleasing to the eye,” Cohen reads. “It is necessary to part from Knowing-Good-and-Evil of this world, since other terms of good and evil are there.”
Pianist Yonathan Avishai’s spellbinding theme to “Naked Truth – Part 2,” one section of an eight-part suite that precedes “Departure,” sounds exactly like that latter verse, tunneling through a plane both comforting and unsettling. Bassist Barak Mori and drummer Ziv Ravitz add subtle color; Cohen plays sparely and yearningly, adding a very human ache to the proceedings.
“Everything that I came to assemble for the album revolved around those eight notes,” Cohen explains of that composition in the press release. “And all the possibilities within them.”
He certainly found them. But at a mellow and compelling 35 minutes, the album never derails or meanders. And while there may not be a crashing finale, that’s the nature of this journey—identifying the unadulterated reality of all things.
In her list of what to leave behind, Mishkovsky tears us away from everything: “From the physical movement and from the inner movement. From love and from hate. From music.” Certainly, the latter is something we all must give up when we shuffle off our mortal coils. But as Cohen’s transfixing art reminds us, it would be difficult not to look back.